Father Gerard Jean Juste
In the early 2000s, Maria and I used to attend Mass at Fr. Jerry Jean-Juste's church in Ti Kazo, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.
Fr. Jerry was the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Haiti. Years before he had escaped the Duvaliers and lived in the United States. While in the States for two decades, he worked in Miami on behalf of Haitians in Haiti and in the United States.
Fr. Jerry returned to Haiti in the early 90s and lived underground. However, when the time was right, he started his parish in Ti Kazo.
The man radiated courage. But as a member of the Lavalas party, he always had to be careful. Fr. Jerry gave his homilies on Sunday over the radio so that he could not be accused of sanctioning violence.
I wrote this about Fr. Jerry after he was arrested on trumped-up charges in November 2005---
He fled Baby Doc. He worked the streets in Miami. He never really got a parish but the Miami bishop liked him. He worked with boat people that slopped up onto the beach and couldn't draw triangles. He came back to Haiti after Jean-Claude became a gambler on the Riviera. He lived underground. He finally got his own church and set up a feeding program for kids and adults. He preached nonviolence and justice for the poor. He demanded that Haiti's democratically elected president return from his exile. His homilies were on the radio and went all over Haiti. He lived alone above the sacristy and finally was pulled out through a broken glass window of his church as three kids in his feeding program were being shot as they ran away from the men in black. He got out of jail and then was thrown back in accused of being the killer and torturer of a man as he was preparing to say the dead man's funeral mass. The people in the church spit on him and beat him. A lady who had laid in the morgue a few days before laid on his body and stopped the blows and the bullets that were ready for him.
A few warriors from his parish in Ti Kazo visit him in prison. And some indestructible church ladies bring him food from his own feeding program. But Haitian priests and bishops don't visit because they are part of the State and part of the problem.
In December 2005, Maria and I visited Fr. Jerry in the Haitian prison in Port au Prince a few times. And on one visit, he scribbled the following on a scrap of paper and we took it with us to make it available to the media.
In the message, Father Jerry did not think he had long to live. But he wrote that he was remaining faithful to the end.
Father Jerry always seemed very good in jail. He seemed like he was in charge rather than a prisoner. On one occasion, I gave him a pair of reading glasses and he looked like a "professional" with them on.
During one visit, Father Jerry told me that since he was slapped around by the Haitian police who had arrested him in his own parish in July, he had had neck pain and asked me if I would check him.
When I palpated Father's neck muscles in the front of his neck, I immediately stumbled onto a few large mobile masses that had a rubbery feel to them. Also, in both axillary regions, he had the same ominous large nodes.
I glanced at Maria while feeling these large lymph nodes. These nodes did not feel like tubercular lymph nodes and were not hard and matted down like metastatic solid cancer lymph nodes. These nodes felt like they were leukemic or lymphomatous (blood cancer) in origin. Father did feel pain when he turned his head due to the enlarged nodes. Often, when people discover an enlarged lymph node due to cancer, they attribute it to recent trauma they have had. And Father Jerry attributed his neck pain to the trauma of being beaten by the Haitian police six months earlier when he was arrested.
After the quick prison exam, I asked Father if he had labs drawn and he said that he did and called the guards to bring him his medical dossier.
Scanning his complete blood count, which was typed on a white piece of paper from a lab in downtown Port-au-Prince, his labs appeared completely normal except for a somewhat low white blood cell count. I wondered if these lab results had been altered so they would appear better than they really were.
Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee
December 15, 2005
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are deeply concerned about the continuing imprisonment and precarious health of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste in Haiti. We urge you to take action to seek Fr. Jean-Juste's immediate release from prison and ensure that he is able to obtain the medical care he needs.
Fr. Jean-Juste is a widely respected Catholic priest and a courageous advocate for peace and justice. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has called for his unconditional release. The injustice of his imprisonment is all the more blatant because of his failing health.
On December 1, Fr. Jean-Juste received a medical exam by Dr. John Carroll, who reported that he had swollen lymph nodes in his neck and armpits and an elevated white blood count. this could indicate one of several serious medical conditions, including blood cancer or an infectious disease. Many blood cancers have a good prognosis if they are treated early by specialists. It is therefore imperative that Fr. Jean-Juste be able to receive prompt medical attention.
We respectfully request that you urge the Interim Government of Haiti to release Fr. Jean-Juste immediately and enable him to obtain appropriate medical care. We appreciate your attention to our concerns. Your action at this critical time could save the life of this gentle priest.
cc: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Special Representative Juan Gabirel Valdes, MINUSTAH
Ambassador Timothy M. Carney, U.S. Embassy in Haiti
Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer, U. S. Embassy in Haiti
Imprisoned Haitian priest may need US doctors
Friday, December 16, 2005
Supporters of jailed priest Jean-Juste say that he needs medical treatment in the United States. His attorney, Bill Quigley, told reporters that the priest, who was considered a potential presidential candidate before his arrest and long detainment, may have cancer and should be released so that he can seek medical attention in the United States. A doctor, Dr. John Carroll, who examined Jean-Juste said that an abnormal white blood cell count, as well as swelling in his neck and under his arms could be early signs of cancer. The government of interim President Alenxandre said that their doctors have examined the priest as well and said no signs of cancer exist.
Jean-Juste has been in jail since July when he was arrested at a funeral of a popular Haitian journalist and poet. He was originally detained for questioning related to the murder but also allegations of illegal weapons possessions have been brought up. He's yet to be charged in any crimes. The doctor who made the claim of possible cancer is a supporter of Jean-Juste and some might think that this is an exaggeration to allow Jean-Juste out of Haiti to plan his political future.
* "Supporters say jailed priest needs medical treatment". CNN, December 16, 2005
* ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU "Haitian Priest Said to Need U.S. Doctor". Chron.com, December 16, 2005
Fr. Jean-Juste Must Be Released Immediately:
Diagnosed with Life-Threatening Medical Problems
by Bill Quigley.
[Please forward as widely as possible]
There is new urgency to the calls for the freedom of Haitian political prisoner Pere Jean-Juste, he is now facing very serious medical problems.
Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, sometimes called the Martin Luther King Jr of Haiti for his outspoken advocacy for the poor, for human rights, and for democracy, has been in jail in Haiti without charges since July 21. He was arrested after being attacked by a mob in a church - none of the mob were charged.
Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and experts from the UN Commission on Human Rights have called for his release and the release of all political prisoners in Haiti. People in the poorer areas of Haiti and others across the world have campaigned and demonstrated for Fr. Jean-Juste's release.
Unelected Haitian authorities, who took and have held power unconstitutionally after democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced out, have resisted national and international calls for the release of Fr. Jean-Juste. The unelected appear to want to keep Fr. Jean-Juste and others in jail without trial until at least until after the oft-postponed and highly controversial Haitian elections are concluded.
The first public medical report on Fr. Jean-Juste has just been released. US physician Dr. John Carroll MD examined Pere Jean-Juste in September and again in December. The full report is attached. To summarize, Dr. Carroll, board-certified in internal medicine, observed increased swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck and under the arms, intermittent hearing loss, and elevated white blood counts. Dr. Carroll concluded that "causes for these findings are numerous including hematological [blood] cancers, metastatic [spreading] cancer, and a host of infectious diseases."
Dr. Carroll says "Fr. Jean-Juste needs an extensive medical workup, CAT scan, and surgical biopsy...and to begin appropriate treatment immediately. Many cancers of the blood have a good prognosis when treated early by specialists." Note the word immediately.
Contact the US Embassy in Haiti and demand they take every step necessary to secure the immediate release of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste. The unelected government of Haiti serves only at the pleasure of the US. If the US wants Fr. Jean-Juste freed, he will be free.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Haitian Priest and Prisoner...Who Cares?
Subject: Haiti and Father Gerard Jean-Juste
Dec 15, 8:54 PM EST
Haitian Priest Said to Need U.S. Doctor
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) --
A jailed Catholic priest who had been considered a potential candidate for Haiti's presidency may have cancer and should be released to seek medical treatment in the United States, his lawyer said Thursday.
The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a supporter of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has declined an examination by government doctors because he doesn't trust them, attorney Bill Quigley told reporters outside the jailed priest's church in the capital.
Dr. John Carroll, a supporter who examined Jean-Juste in jail, said the priest has swelling in his neck and under his arms and had an abnormal white blood cell count, which are possible indications of cancer or an infection."Every day that goes by, we are wasting time," Carroll said. "If this is indeed cancer, his life is in danger."
Michel Brunache, chief of staff for interim President Boniface Alexandre, said government doctors had examined the priest and said there was no indication that he had cancer.
Jean-Juste has been jailed since July, when Haitian authorities accused him of suspected involvement in the abduction and slaying of a well-known local journalist. Authorities later expanded the investigation to include alleged weapons violations. The priest denies the allegations. The investigating judge, Jean Perez-Paul, has declined to reveal his findings but said he will soon forward his recommendations to a government prosecutor. Jean-Juste, who has been compared to Aristide, a former priest, has emerged as a prominent figure in the ousted president's Lavalas Family party. Lavalas activists had attempted to register Jean-Juste as a presidential candidate in elections, but Haitian authorities ruled he was ineligible because he is in prison and could not appear in person to register his candidacy. Haiti's national elections are scheduled for Jan. 8.
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
HAITI--Posted on Thu, Dec. 29, 2005
Doctor: Jailed priest has developed leukemia
A Harvard doctor said Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a former Miami activist now in jail in Haiti, has leukemia and needs immediate treatment.
BY JOE MOZINGO
Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest whose continued imprisonment in Port-au-Prince has become a cause célebre for political allies and human-rights advocates, has developed an early stage of leukemia, according to a prominent U.S. physician who runs hospitals in Haiti.
Dr. Paul Farmer, a friend and supporter of Jean-Juste, says the jailed priest has chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a form of the blood and marrow disease that progresses slowly but can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer.
In several e-mails and a telephone interview from Rwanda, where he is working this week, Farmer explained that he examined Jean-Juste without guards' knowledge on Dec. 23. He drew blood and brought it to Miami, where it was analyzed by a University of Miami hematologist.
''I can assure you he has leukemia,'' Farmer wrote to The Miami Herald on Wednesday.
Jean-Juste, known as ''Father Gerry'' when he lived in Miami and led the nation's most powerful Haitian rights group, was arrested July 21 for alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche.
He and his supporters vehemently deny the allegations. Many observers have expressed concerns that his detention is simply a move to silence Jean-Juste. Amnesty International calls him a ''prisoner of conscience'' and 42 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter demanding his release.
Since an armed rebellion ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Jean-Juste has become a potent critic of the U.S.-backed transitional government. Police arrested him in Oct. 2004 for inciting violence, but he was released seven weeks later after a judge found the allegation baseless.
Many of the urban poor see Jean-Juste as a natural successor to Aristide, a former slum priest himself, and his Lavalas political movement.
After Jean-Juste's second arrest on July 21, Lavalas leaders tried to register him as a presidential candidate for elections tentatively scheduled for next month. But the electoral council rejected the application because the imprisoned Jean-Juste did not show up to register in person.
Earlier this month, more than 1,000 people marched through Miami to protest his incarceration.
''It's an outrage,'' said Steve Forester, a Miami attorney who has been organizing the campaign to free Jean-Juste. ``He's a nonviolent priest. He's a prisoner of conscience. And if the Bush administration wanted him out, they'd get him out.''
"This is about saving his life.''
Farmer, a Harvard professor and expert in infectious diseases, wrote that “Father Gerry's in serious trouble if he isn't released from jail for proper work-up in the States.”
He said the priest, at the very least, needs a CT scan and a bone marrow biopsy -- procedures Jean-Juste does not trust doctors commissioned by the Haitian government to perform.
Farmer said the University of Miami blood specialist told him that the cancer is progressing rapidly and could turn into a more virulent form of leukemia. Because of the unorthodox circumstances in which the blood was drawn, Farmer said the hematologist did not want to be named.
Their findings support those of another U.S. doctor, John Carroll, who examined Jean-Juste earlier in the month and reported finding enlarged lymph nodes and abnormal white blood cell counts.
Haitian officials have countered that their own doctors examined Jean-Juste and found no sign of cancer, according to The Associated Press. A government spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Farmer said the cancer itself is not likely an immediate threat to Jean-Juste's life, but because it weakens his immune system, an infection could be fatal.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
What's At Stake?
Jailed Haitian Priest Diagnosed with Leukemia: Your Support Urgently Needed
Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a human rights activist and Catholic priest from Haiti, founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, Florida in the 1970s, and served as its Executive Director for more than a decade. During that time, he worked closely with Human Rights First and others to help refugees fleeing persecution under the Duvalier regime. He returned to Haiti in 1991, where he became parish priest at the Sainte Claire Catholic Church.
After an armed rebellion ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004, Father Jean-Juste became an outspoken critic of human rights abuses perpetrated by armed forces with ties to the interim government, led by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. As a result of his activism, Father Jean-Juste has endured several arrests and imprisonment on trumped-up charges.
On October 13, 2004 on the heels of an upsurge of violence by armed supporters of both the interim government and former President Aristide, Father Jean-Juste was arrested by masked members of the Haitian National Police while running a soup kitchen at the Sainte Claire Catholic Church in Port-au-Prince. In an interview with reporters, Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue explained the arrest by saying that Jean-Juste's name had become "associated with" people suspected of organizing against the government.
Father Jean-Juste was jailed for almost five weeks before he was brought before a judge on November 12. The judge dismissed all charges against the priest and ordered his release, but authorities did not release Father Jean-Juste for another 17 days. His lawyers credited his eventual release to pressure by the international community and human rights groups, including Human Rights First, placed on the Haitian government to treat Father Jean-Juste with fairness and accord him due process.
In July 2005, Father Jean-Juste again found himself the target of harassment, arrest, and detention by the interim government of Haiti. On July 15, Father Jean-Juste was stopped at the airport in Port-au-Prince upon returning from Miami, Florida. He was taken to Judicial Police Headquarters and held for questioning for some hours before being released on condition that he return for further questioning the following Monday. When Father Jean-Juste complied, he was asked no questions and allowed to leave.
He then received a summons to appear before a judge on July 20 to answer to the charge of "plotting against state security," a charge which many political dissidents have faced. The summons stated that the alleged crime took place on October 18, 2004, when Father Jean-Juste was behind bars. Father Jean-Juste and his lawyers appeared before the judge as required and answered a series of questions about his political opinions. The judge did not issue a decision and allowed Father Jean-Juste to return to his parish.
On July 21, Father Jean-Juste was attacked while serving as one among seven priests to proffer blessings at the funeral of his cousin, Haitian journalist Jacques Roche, who was killed while Jean-Juste was traveling in Miami. When he emerged among the seven priests gathered to bless the coffin, funeral attendees began yelling "assasin," "criminal," and "arrest and kill the rat." The crowd physically attacked Father Jean-Juste, punching him and spitting on him. Since Roche has been identified as a supporter of those who overthrew the government of former President Aristide, some have blamed his death on members of former President Aristide's political party, Lavalas, of which Father Jean-Juste is a supporter. After UN peacekeepers were able to disperse the crowd, police indicated they would take Father Jean-Juste to the police station for his own safety.
Father Jean-Juste waited at the police station with his lawyers for approximately eight hours while the UN and Haitian police discussed whether to release him. Finally, several Haitian officers produced a piece of paper they claimed was an official complaint against Father Jean-Juste accusing him of assassinating Jacques Roche. The complaint was based on "public clamor" at the funeral accusing him of murdering Roche. It was their obligation, they said, to investigate this public clamor identifying him as the murderer. He was locked into a jail cell with 40 other people and no beds, no running water, and just one toilet. On Friday, July 22, after a brief meeting with a justice of the peace, over a dozen masked police officers with machine guns forced a handcuffed Father Jean-Juste into a police van and sped away to an undisclosed location. It was later learned that Father Jean-Juste is being held in solitary confinement at the Haitian National Penitentiary. Initially, he had difficulty gaining access to his lawyers and is apparently facing new charges: "public denunciation" and "inciting to violence." The former prime minister of Haiti, Yvon Neptune, who has been in prison for almost two years without trial, is also imprisoned under the charge of "inciting to violence." Some speculate that Father Jean-Juste is likely to remain in prison until after elections take place in 2006.
While in prison, Father Jean-Juste has been suffering from health problems. He was examined by U.S. doctor John Carroll in early December, who detected swellings in Father Jean-Juste's throat and underarms. After finding an abnormally low white blood cell count, Dr. Carroll warned that Father Jean-Juste may have a serious - and possibly cancerous condition. Father Jean-Juste then received a visit from Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard professor and expert in infectious diseases. Dr. Farmer took a sample of Father Jean-Juste's blood to a laboratory in Miami and confirmed that the priest has leukemia. Haitian government officials claim that they have run their own tests, and that Father Jean-Juste is in fine health.
Father Jean-Juste Has Pneumonia
I received this email from Bill Quigley on January 26, 2006. Bill was Father Jerry's US based attorney and Bill had visited Fr. Jerry in the National Penitentiary several times.
Brian Concannon is an attorney who is director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
Dr. Jennifer Furin was from Harvard Medical School and examined Fr. Jerry in prison and sounded the alert that Fr. Jerry was critically ill in prison and action was needed to save his life.
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 09:55:24 -0800 (PST)
From: bill quigley Reply-To: bill quigley To: "email@example.com" Subject: URGENT: Fr. Gerry has pneumonia
ACTION STEPS: call 1) Haiti's Ambassador to the U.S. Ray Joseph (202 332 4090), 2) U.S. State Dept Haiti Desk Officer Daniel Stewart (202 647-4755), 3) and the Human Rights Officer in the US Embassy in Haiti, Dana Banks, (011-509-223-0707 ext, 8270, or 011 509 222 0200), BanksD@state.gov.
Doctor's report TODAY 1.26.06: "marked deterioration of his condition since I last saw him two weeks ago." "his health has steadily deteriorated. Over the last four days he has had a fever and cough, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. His blood cell counts have dropped markedly due to the leukemia, and he appears extremely pale, fatigued, and with visible skin bruises due to his rapidly advancing disease.", "Father Jean-Juste requires immediate hospital-level care for this deteriorating condition. Further, given his precipitously low blood cell counts?significantly worse than two weeks ago?it is imperative that he also receives immediate treatment for his leukemia. Without this treatment he will die in prison."
26 January 2006
Mr. Brian Concannon Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
P.O. Box 745Joseph, OR 97846Fax: +1-541-432-0264
Re: Health of Gerard Jean-Juste
Dear Mr. Concannon,
I am writing because I am deeply concerned about the health of Father Gerard Jean-Juste. I am currently in Port-au-Prince, where I have just examined Father Jean-Juste and am alarmed at the marked deterioration of his condition since I last saw him two weeks ago.As you know, Father Jean-Juste was diagnosed with leukemia a few weeks ago. This diagnosis was confirmed by Haitian physicians two weeks ago.
Since that time, his health has steadily deteriorated. Over the last four days he has had a fever and cough, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. His blood cell counts have dropped markedly due to the leukemia, and he appears extremely pale, fatigued, and with visible skin bruises due to his rapidly advancing disease.
While he has received some antibiotics in prison for the pneumonia, Father Jean-Juste requires immediate hospital-level care for this deteriorating condition. Further, given his precipitously low blood cell counts? significantly worse than two weeks ago?
it is imperative that he also receives immediate treatment for his leukemia. Without this treatment he will die in prison. There is no time to waste.
Thank you for any assistance you can provide for Father Jean-Juste.
Jennifer Furin, MD, PhD
Harvard Medical School
ACTION STEPS: call 1) Haiti's Ambassador to the U.S. Ray Joseph (202 332 4090), 2) U.S. State Dept Haiti Desk Officer Daniel Stewart (202 647-4755), 3) and the Human Rights Officer in the US Embassy in Haiti, Dana Banks, (011-509-223-0707 ext, 8270, or 011 509 222 0200), BanksD@state.gov.
The next day I received this email from Brian Concannon--
Sunday, January 29, 2006
FATHER JEAN-JUSTE RELEASED!
-----Original Message-----From: Brianhaiti
Sent: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 12:18:51 PM Eastern Standard Time
Subject: Fr. Gerry Released!
Fr. Gerry Released!
January 29, Noon ET
We have great news: Political prisoner Fr. Gerard-Jean-Juste, "Fr. Gerry" is right now on a plane in the air from Port-au-Prince to Miami. A cancer center in Florida has agreed to treat his leukemia, so he will get immediate attention for the cancer, as well as for the pneumonia he contracted this week.
Fr. Gerry was granted a provisional release, which requires him to return to Haiti after the treatment to face the charges still pending against him. The current charges against him are as baseless as the other charges which have been dismissed.
Fr. Gerry's lawyers at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have filed an appeal, asking for the charges to be dismissed. The appeals court can rule on the appeal without Fr. Gerry's presence, so it is possible that the case will be dismissed without requiring him to return to court. If he is forced to return to court, the BAI lawyers will continue to fight the charges. In the meantime, Fr. Gerry will be relatively safe, and will have his leukemia treated.
Doctors who have examined him are hopeful that his disease is at a stage where it can be successfully treated, but they cannot be certain without more tests.
Today's victory proves the Haitian proverb, "men anpil, chay pa lou-: many hands makes the load light. This mobilization has been by far the strongest and most persistent Haiti advocacy effort in the ten years that I have been involved in Haiti work. Everyone who called, faxed, wrote or emailed Haitian and US officials, everyone who signed a petition, everyone who forwarded information about Fr. Gerry to their church, their friends, and their family, should be proud. Close to a dozen human rights groups, over 50 members of the US Congress, and hundreds of religious, political and human rights leaders from all over the world joined together to make this moment possible.
Together we demonstrated that the world does care, that justice is possible, and that collective action does work. No small accomplishment.
Fr. Gerry said in a letter from prison on Friday:
"Understand that I wish you all to extend your support not only to me but to as many political prisoners as possible wherever on planet earth. Probably, you are aware that there are quite a number of political prisoners around the world. Think of them and keep them in your heart. I am very grateful to Amnesty International and to all of you for helping fight for the human rights of all political prisoners, here in Haiti and across the world. Let's keep the momentum on for justice, peace, love, and sharing to prevail all over the world as God wants it."
Today we should all take the time to pat ourselves on the back. But tomorrow we need to get back to work, to help the political prisoners that Fr. Gerry left behind in Haiti.
Brian Concannon Jr., Esq.
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Feb 1, 2006
Regarding Father Gerry's release from prison--
"The first person to thank is Father Gerry himself. His dedication to nonviolent struggle for the human rights of this hemisphere's most vulnerable people over two decades is an inspiration to us all.
"After Fr. Gerry, the people who risked the most were Mario Joseph and his legal team at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who fought for justice ian a manifestly unjust system, and the parishoners at Sainte Claire's Church, who never lost faith and kept Fr. Gerry's service programs running. Porfessor Bill Quigley, tethe doctors at Partners in health and Dr. John Carroll all kept at least one foot in Haiti, providing critical legal and medical services in prison, while providing the world with critical information about Fr. Gerry's status."
Father Gerry Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest, was a friend of Maria's and mine.
We went to Mass at his church--St. Clare's in Ti Kazo.
Father fed many kids in St. Clare's neighborhood and during his homilies he begged for St. Jude's intercession for long-suffering Haiti.
He was a totally courageous man and was thrown in jail in Haiti on trumped up charges.
Maria and I visited him in prison in Port-au-Prince in December 2005. Father was a sick man and his labs looked too good--like they were fabricated--when I reviewed them. He told us that his Haitian doctor told him there was nothing wrong with him.
For those who follow Haitian politics, the rest of the Father Gerry story is known except....WikiLeaks now reveals how the Haitian Interim Government and the US Embassy were very involved with the fate of Father Gerry.
date: 1/27/2006 15:53
origin: Embassy Port Of Spain
DE RUEHSP #0137/01 0271553
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271553Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6340
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
----------------- header ends ----------------
C O N F I D E N T I A L PORT OF SPAIN 000137
DEPT FOR WHA/CAR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2016
TAGS: PREL, KDEM, HA, TD
SUBJECT: T&T PM MANNING SUPPORTIVE OF HAITI IN CARICOM;
HAITIAN PM PRESSING FOR JEAN-JUSTE RESOLUTION
REF: PORT AU PRINCE 00185
Classified By: DCM, Eugene P. Sweeney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador Austin met Interim Haitian Prime
Minister Latortue and informed him of the desirability of
immediately releasing Father Jean-Juste from prison.
Ambassador also asked about the outcome of Latortue's meeting
with Prime Minister Manning. Latortue stated that he would
call Port au Prince immediately upon arrival in Miami to seek
immediate resolution of the Jean-Juste case. Latortue also
reported that Manning was supportive of Haiti and wants to
help, but Manning's hands are tied by CARICOM recalcitrance.
Latortue floated the idea of stationing a U.S. naval vessel
near Haiti in the run up to the election to provide a
psychological counterweight to the drug and arms runners who
are likely to intimidate the population away from the ballot
box on February 7. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Ambassador Austin met with Interim Haitian Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue (with Poloff as note taker) on
January 26 and urged him to seek immediate release of Father Jean-Juste's release in light of his rapidly deteriorating
medical condition. Ambassador also sought to determine the
outcome of Latortue's meeting with Trinidad's Prime Minister
Manning. Latortue responded that he would call Port au
Prince immediately upon arrival in Miami (his next
destination) to urge Jean-Juste's immediate release, but
noted that the case was now in the Judiciary, where he had no
control over it. Latortue also reported that his meeting
with PM Manning was productive, with Manning expressing
support to bring Haiti back into the CARICOM fold. Latortue
made no mention of CARICOM election observers, but did report
that CARICOM Foreign Ministers might make a trip to Haiti on
February 1, after their January 30-31 meeting in Jamaica.
3. (C) On the Jean-Juste case, Latortue reiterated the
information contained reftel, that the Judiciary was ready to
bring Jean-Juste to trial and to conclude the trial within a
day. If found guilty and sentenced to the minimum six
months, Jean-Juste has already served the time. If sentenced
to longer, the government has amnesty papers ready to ensure
that Jean-Juste receives medical treatment immediately in the
United States. Latortue expressed his frustration with
Jean-Juste and his lawyers, calling them political activists
who are doing all within their power to embarrass the interim
government. He claims that they are dealing in bad faith,
and that Jean-Juste would prefer to die in prison rather than
give the government the chance to do the right thing. "We
fight to do the right thing," said Latortue, "but we're made
to look like the devil."
4. (C) Latortue stated that his meeting with PM Manning was
a success, with Manning expressing strong support to bring
Haiti back into the CARICOM fold. Latortue also stated that
he will invite a CARICOM delegation to visit Haiti in the
near future to set the stage for Haiti to rejoin CARICOM as
early as July. He mentioned the upcoming CARICOM Foreign
Ministers' meeting in Jamaica, and said that there is a
possibility for the ministers to travel immediately from
Kingston to Port au Prince to see for themselves Haiti's
progress. Manning himself is committed to helping Haiti, but
has difficulty mobilizing CARICOM due to the opposition of
St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
5. (C) Manning and Latortue also discussed the possibility
of bringing T&T private investment to Haiti. Specifically,
they discussed involvement in the cement sector. T&T has
already expressed interest in this sector, but lost a bid
previously because their company would not pay bribes.
Latortue reaffirmed that the only way to improve the quality
of life in Haiti was through private sector involvement; an
area that he intends to remain active in after the permanent,
elected government is sworn in.
6. (C) Turning to what the U.S. could do to help, Latortue
reiterated his idea for "psychological support" in the form
of a naval vessel to be stationed near Haiti in the days
before the election, with helicopters flying overhead to emphasize U.S. support (reftel). Latortue believes this is
necessary because the drug and weapons runners have the
population running scared; a U.S. presence would serve to
reassure the population and encourage them to vote on
February 7. Ambassador likened Latortue's recommendation to
the British colonial strategy of having naval vessels cruise
within sight of citizens of countries that may have been
contemplating insurrection. He advised that while the
strategy may be effective, it may also backfire because some
observers may interpret it as U.S. interference intended to
influence the outcome of the election.
Email from Father Gerry in February 2006 after he had been released from prison in Port au Prince and hospitalized in Miami for treatment of his leukemia--
13 Feb 2006
Dear Dr. John,
Just a few words to greet you all. I am in Miami since Jan 29. Probably you have read about me. Please let's stay in touch. I want to hear from you, Maria, Raphaella and Mom. You may reach me at these numbers. Many thanks for your great support and prayers.
Yours in the Living God! Peace!
My response to Father Gerry--(Raphaella was a small girl from his parish Father Gerry had us examine who had sustained severe burns. We were able to get her accepted at a hospital in Boston in 2005.)
14 Feb 2006
Maria and I were thrilled when you were released from prison and hospitalized in Miami!! WE know you will beat this also. We have no doubt.
Raphaella and her mom are in Boston. The hospital is now saying that they won't operate on her until November!! This is unacceptable given her circumstances, Haiti's condition right now, etc. it took us from March at St. Claires' Parish until January to get Rahaella and her mother visas to come to the US. I called the hospital yesterday to plead her case.
I need to talk to you on the phone about this.
I will call. If you don't get my call, please call me at....Maria and I are in Cleveland now with a 15-month-old Haitian boy from La Plaine who had heart surgery six days ago.
We do not want to send Raphaella back to Haiti without surgery.
John and Maria
Thursday, September 06, 2007
SAINT JUDE AND FATHER JEAN-JUSTE
by John A. Carroll
He lived for many years in exile as a street priest in Miami. Father Jean-Juste had fled Baby Doc’s henchmen to stay alive.
In the early ’90s, after he returned to Haiti and was living underground, I briefly talked to Father. His hair was black then but his thoughts about Haiti were the same as they are today.
Over the years my wife and I became good friends with Father Jean-Juste as we attended mass at his parish—-St. Clare’s in Port-au-Prince. St. Clare’s is located on top of a hill looking out over a huge plain with the mountains in the distance.
Father Jean-Juste’s mass was a dynamic process. He worked hard during the mass. He needed to. Sweat broke out on his temples and forehead as he begged, pleaded, and invoked God’s goodwill for Haiti. He prayed with fervor. His homilies were broadcast on the radio for the entire country of Haiti to hear. Nothing was hidden from anyone.
During mass Father Jean-Juste pointed to the saint’s picture above the altar and beseeched Saint Jude Thaddeus in his baritone voice, begging the saint of desperate, forgotten, and lost causes to give Haiti some respite and some justice.
At the conclusion of a mass several years ago, Father brought a seven-year-old girl named Raphaella to the altar. Raphaella had been badly burned by a propane gas explosion that left her grossly scarred and disfigured from the flames. Her face, chest, and arm were involved. Raphaella sang a song in a quiet shy voice into the microphone held by Father as she pleaded for medical help from the poor parishioners.
We watched the faces of the people in the pews…they were calm and full of respect for their priest who has no fear in asking that just and deserving options should be offered to those who need it...even in Haiti.
When each mass was over, Father seemed emotionally and physically spent. But he was still relentless in his push for his people. Five to ten people would be waiting in the front pews after mass to ask Father for some kind of help. They needed "aid" to bury their relative who had been murdered in the slum or they needed some other type of help. He listened patiently, putting his ear close to them as they quietly spoke to him. This gesture offered them some privacy while they talked. It also showed his attention to detail and to the fact that "tout moun se moun" (every person is a person).
Night and day he worked both upstream and downstream in Haiti’s river of injustice.
All this occurred while his feeding programs, set up close to the church, were feeding thousands of happy children each week. It was startling to walk to the feeding area down the path from the church and see the window that was smashed as Father was drug out of it during one of his arrests by the Haitian police several years ago. Glass was still on the ground and we had to wonder about the shots that rang out and the pandemonium that must have existed as three children in the neighborhood were hit by police bullets while Father was being arrested.
After interacting with the kids in the feeding program and returning to church, Father’s fatigue was again evident as we climbed the narrow twisting metal steps from the area behind the altar to his little anteroom in which he received people on the second floor of the church. I am sure many important discussions regarding the future of Haiti occurred in this small area right outside his tiny bedroom.
I always wondered where his security detail was. Of course, he had no security detail except a few elderly church ladies and some young men that helped him with St. Clare’s and the feeding program.
Father’s courage and honesty were obvious and contagious. So was his perseverance. But he always had to be careful what he said and where he went and how he documented everything. He took nothing for granted. He knew he was a marked man.
Finally, as the world knows, he was thrown in prison again in 2005 on trumped-up charges. Would he have run for president of Haiti? Who knows. But the big guys were not going to wait to find out. Father needed to be in prison.
The United Nations and the Haitian National Police (HNP) guarded the prison. The church ladies brought him food. For some reason we worried less about Father in prison than in his little room at Saint Clare’s.
While incarcerated Father became ill. Most of the Haitian State and Church leaders stayed away from him. Cancer in his blood began to consume him. The Haitian State doctor said he was fine… but he wasn’t. The world and mainstream media tend to forget about the sick Jean-Juste’s when they are hidden away in a deplorable jail in a dilapidated neighborhood in a country that doesn’t mean much to anyone...unless you are Haitian.
Eventually, Father made it out of prison and received proper medical care.
Who can anyone really dispute what Father Jean-Juste does or says? Where is he wrong? He only wants the best for Haiti and its people. He should be in the Haitian picture as much as anyone. He should not be drug through sharp glass windows, thrown in prison, and given medical treatment not suitable for animals. The anxiety of his poor parishioners at Saint Clare’s was high because the only priest they really trusted was taken from them.
Recently Father returned to Haiti. The people of Saint Clare's are happy again. The HNP have shaken his hand and said they will protect him.
So what will happen? Will anyone listen to this prophet? Will Haiti’s Catholic Church allow him to function as a priest and sweat again during his honest homilies? Will his opponents stop injuring and harassing him? Will his cancer give him many more years to plead to St. Jude for the good of all of Haiti?
Just because Father is back, the slum violence has calmed, and President Preval’s government seems to be somewhat functional, this doesn’t mean that the Haitian people are not starving. Babies are dying every day of preventable illnesses. The slums and rural areas are miserable. The roads and other parts of the Haiti’s infrastructure have crumbled. The water is dirty. Men and women sit around the country unemployed but are more than willing to work, even back-breaking work, if offered a just salary.
It would be wonderful if Haiti’s rich and powerful citizens at home and abroad, and the Bishops and Monsignors of the Catholic Church in Haiti and the Americas, would embrace Father Jean-Juste and what he espouses. Respect for the dignity of all Haitians needs to be given by the international community.
Simply put, would more Haitian babies live or die if Father and his passionate cry for justice were listened to and his fervent prayers to Saint Jude answered?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
(Photo by EVENS SANON)
“My Rosary Is My Only Weapon”- Fr. Jean-Juste goes to Court in Haiti, Again
By Pooja Bhatia, Esq.
Port-au-Prince, 26 November 2007— Hundreds of supporters of Father Gérard Jean-Juste crammed into the courtroom of the Palais de Justice today to attend his long-awaited hearing before the Cour d’Appel (Court of Appeals). Dozens demonstrated outside. Although the court did not dismiss the charges against Jean-Juste—as many of his supporters had hoped and cautiously predicted—the hearing gave them reason to believe that the charges will eventually be dropped.
The Commissaire du Gouvernement, or the prosecutor, officially recommended that the charges against Jean-Juste be dropped. Moreover, the judges gave their legal imprimatur to Jean-Juste’s provisional freedom. As Jean-Juste’s release, on medical grounds in January 2006, was ordered by the government rather than the proper judicial authorities, he was still vulnerable to arrest and detention. As of today, Father Jean-Juste is free to move about.
The judges will now review Jean-Juste’s file and issue their decision on Fr. Jean-Juste’s appeal. He has asked the court to dismiss the charges as unfounded in both law and in fact. Although it is difficult to predict when the decision will finally come down, Jean-Juste’s attorney, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, believes it will be within one or two weeks.
“I am very pleased that Père Jean-Juste has his freedom, and that the prosecutor recommended dropping the charges,” Mr. Joseph said after the hearing. “I believe that after a short period of time, the Cour d’Appel will issue its ruling.”
If the Cour d’Appel rules against Jean-Juste, Mr. Joseph said, his legal team would file an appeal to the Cour de Cassation, Haiti’s highest tribunal.
Father Jean-Juste was imprisoned twice during the regime of Haiti’s Interim Government (2004-2006). In October 2004, he was arrested for plotting against the security of the state and later accused of murder. There was never any evidence presented for those charges. Fr. Jean-Juste was released provisionally after seven weeks in jail, and the charges were eventually dismissed.
In July 2005, Jean-Juste was taken into custody by MINUSTAH troops, and handed over to the police—at first, purportedly for his own protection. He was later accused of kidnapping and murdering journalist Jacques Roche. No evidence was ever presented to back up the murder allegations, and those charges were eventually dismissed. But in the meantime the interim government charged Jean-Juste with possession of illegal weapons and “association de malfaiteurs”—a vague conspiracy charge that had proven malleable enough to justify the detention of hundreds of Lavalas activists. Although no evidence was presented that Fr. Jean-Juste possessed any weapons, or that there was a criminal conspiracy, he was held in jail for five months.
The arrest was widely understood as an attempt to silence Jean-Juste. International human rights organizations denounced the charges as politically motivated, and Amnesty International promptly declared Jean-Juste a prisoner of conscience. Like former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Jean-Juste has an ardent following among the masses, and was, for many, the presumptive heir to Aristide’s mantle. At the time of his arrest, he was a leading critic of the interim government’s human rights policies, and Haiti’s most effective advocate for non-violent social change.
Jean-Juste languished at the National Penitentiary from July 2005 until January 2006, the eve of elections. There, he contracted pneumonia, which was apparently brought on by prison conditions. In December 2005, two United States doctors, including the prominent Harvard physician Paul Farmer, diagnosed him with leukemia. Amid heavy international pressure, Jean-Juste was granted a humanitarian release to seek medical treatment in Miami, on the condition that he would return to Haiti to face the charges against him. A week before Haiti’s presidential elections, Jean-Juste went to Miami to begin chemotherapy.
This April, while Jean-Juste was being treated in Miami, Mr. Joseph argued his appeal, contending that the ordonnance, or charging document, had several legal flaws, and did not contain any evidence of illegal activity by Fr. Jean-Juste. He noted that there was no evidence that Fr. Jean-Juste had ever possessed the guns in question, which the government had given to Fr. Jean-Juste’s security detail before the February 2004 coup d’état. Attorney Joseph also presented certifications that the guns had been returned to the government, and noted that there was no allegation of underlying crime on which a conspiracy charge could be based. At the April hearing, the Commissaire du Gouvernment agreed with Mr. Joseph and recommended dropping all the charges against Jean-Juste. However, the Cour d’Appel held that Father Jean-Juste must be present for the charges to be dropped.
Today’s hearing consisted of a two-hour-long interrogation of Jean-Juste, in a stuffy courtroom made sweltering by the presence of hundreds of supporters, a dozen international observers, and at least 30 journalists. For much of the time, Jean-Juste, who had been battling leukemia, was standing on his feet. When asked to respond to the illegal weapons charge, Jean-Juste pulled out his rosary and said it was the only weapon he had. The crowd erupted in cheers. Later, when asked about the association de malfaiteurs charge, Jean-Juste, a Roman Catholic priest, explained that his only associations were with Jesus, the Pope, bishops and the people he works with and feeds at his rectory in Port-au-Prince. The crowd roared again.
Pooja Bhatia is a lawyer and Harvard Law School Satter Human Rights Fellow who is spending the year working for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port-au-Prince. She can be reached at Pooja@ijdh.org or + 509-658-9845 . Haitian journalist Wadner Pierre took the photographs that accompany this article. For more information about Fr. Jean-Juste’s legal battles, see Fr. Jean-Juste Harassed Again on the website of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
Brian Concannon Jr., Esq.
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
PO Box 745
Joseph, OR 97846
Thursday, December 13, 2007
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
Baseless Arrests Continue
December 9, 2007
By Brian Concannon, Jr.
Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste's struggles with Haiti's criminal justice system have been a good gauge of the system's health for the last three years. The latest episode, last month, showed that rule of law is alive in Haiti — if not exactly kicking.
"Fr. Gerry," a Catholic priest well-known as an advocate for South Florida's immigrants and Haiti's poor, has fought charges of murder, treason, weapons possession, disturbing the peace and criminal conspiracy since Haiti's interim government first arrested him in October 2004. No one has produced any evidence of criminal activity, but that has not stopped Haitian authorities from arresting Jean-Juste three times and jailing him for seven months.
Gérard Latortue, who headed the interim government (March 2004-May 2006) that arrested Jean-Juste, has returned home to Boca Raton, replaced by an elected government led by President René Préval. Jean-Juste has been out of prison since January 2006, when he was released provisionally to seek treatment for leukemia at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
But he still faces charges of illegal gun possession — even though there is no proof he ever possessed any weapons — and criminal conspiracy — even though there is no allegation that he conspired with anyone or planned any crime. There are no witnesses against Fr. Gerry.
When Jean-Juste languished in Haiti's prisons, his plight was widely condemned by human rights groups and members of Congress as political persecution by an undemocratic regime. When he was released a week before the long-delayed elections that brought President Préval to power, many saw the promise of the return of the rule of law to Haiti.
That promise has been only partially fulfilled. Last month's hearing of Jean-Juste's challenge to the charges, before the Appeals Court of Port-au-Prince, had many auspicious signs. Jean-Juste and his lawyers made their case freely. Hundreds of supporters turned out without incident. The hearing was orderly. And the prosecutor formally recognized the absence of evidence against Jean-Juste and recommended dismissing all charges.
But the judges declined to dismiss the case, claiming they needed more time to review the file. The Appeals Court has already had 22 months since Jean-Juste filed his appeal, and seven months since a previous appeals hearing in April. That is plenty of time to review almost any file, and more than enough for a file that the prosecutor concedes contains no evidence of wrongdoing.
Jean-Juste has now faced charges under the Préval administration for as long as he did under the Latortue regime. Although Fr. Gerry is not in jail, thousands of other men and women arrested by the interim government are stuck in the democratic government's prisons, including perhaps a hundred or more political dissidents.
Over 90 percent of Haiti's prisoners have never been tried; most were arrested without a warrant and have no evidence against them in their files. Most are poor, and unlike Fr. Gerry, don't have access to lawyers or supporters to come to court for them.
The cases of Fr. Gerry and others arrested by the Latortue regime are not President Préval's fault, but they are now his problem. Although comprehensive reform of Haiti's justice system is complex, dismissing baseless cases is not.
Haiti's government can advance the cause of justice, bring hundreds of people home to their families, and save money in the prison budget by simply reviewing case files and seeking dismissals unless the files show a good, legal reason to continue. Ending Fr. Gerry's battle would be an opportune place to start.
Brian Concannon Jr., Esq. directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org.
Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Haiti Justice Blog
Half-Hour for Haiti: Celebrate Independence for Fr. Gerry!
July 2, 2008
We have some good news: Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste can finally declare independence from the Haitian criminal justice system: last month the Appeals Court of Port-au-Prince dismissed the remaining charges against him. Fr. Gerry endured a true legal Odyssey: the case against him lasted for 3 years and 8 months. He spent almost 8 months in prison, was arrested four times, appeared at numerous hearings, and he contracted, and received successful treatment for leukemia. All this time no evidence of criminal activity was ever presented against Fr. Gerry, not a single witness came forward against him.
Many people pitched in to make this victory possible. Human rights groups from around the world, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, the UN, and diplomats from several countries all protested his persecution. Fr. Gerry’s lawyers, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Haiti, and Professor Bill Quigley of Loyola New Orleans Law School never stopped fighting, Doctors Paul Farmer and John Carroll probably saved his life by diagnosing the leukemia. All this work was supported by the thousands of you who wrote letters, called officials and signed petitions in response to the 8 eight action alerts we issued since Fr. Gerry’s first arrest.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Father Gerard Jean-Juste, The People's Priest, 1946 - 2009 by Kim Ives, Haiti
Liberte, June 4, 2009
Source: Haiti Liberté
Here’s one anecdote that captures the man. While he was jailed for political
reasons in late 2005, the priest took part of his prison rations and any extra
food friends and family had brought him and distributed it to hungry residents
of the neighborhood outside his prison cell window.
Father Gérard Jean-Juste, one of Haiti’s most prominent liberation theology
priests, died at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL on the afternoon of May
27 due to complications stemming from leukemia and a stroke he suffered in
early March. He was 63.
Within hours, the news raced through Haiti and its diaspora, particularly in
Miami, where he was revered as the spiritual leader of Haiti’s refugees,
whom he galvanized into a potent political force during the late 1970s and the
Jean-Juste left Haiti in 1965 for schooling at a seminary in Canada and at
Northeastern University in Boston. In 1971, he became the first Haitian
Catholic priest to be ordained in the United States in a ceremony at St. Teresa
of Avila Parish in Brooklyn. Five years later, he took over as director of
Miami’s Catholic Church-run Haitian Refugee Center (HRC), which had been
operated principally as a charity. But as ever-growing waves of
”boat-people” arrived in Florida fleeing Haiti’s Duvalier dictatorship,
Jean-Juste transformed the Center’s mission into a political one, creating
unease, and increasing dismay, in the Catholic hierarchy. He and several
generations of intrepid Haitian and North American lawyers and activists
organized large, spirited demonstrations to denounce, in equal measures,
Duvalierist repression and the U.S. government’s discriminatory treatment of
Haitian refugees, who were deported back to Haiti or thrown into immigration
detention centers while their Cuban counterparts were welcomed with immediate political asylum.
The HRC also became a ground-breaking legal laboratory where prominent
immigration lawyers like Ira Kurzban, Ira Gollobin, Cheryl Little, and Steve
Forester defended hundreds of refugees and won landmark immigration cases,
forging legal precedents which serve refugee defense attorneys to this day.
As the HRC became more embroiled in political and funding battles in the Reagan
years of the early 1980s, Jean-Juste and his comrades formally split the legal
and political work by spinning off a political action popular organization
named, in Kreyol, “Veye Yo” (Watch Them), which set up its meeting hall
across the street from the Center. Although the Center has closed, Veye Yo
remains to this day the largest and most influential Haitian grassroots group
in Miami, and perhaps in all of Haiti’s diaspora.
Following the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship on Feb. 7, 1986 - also the day
Jean-Juste was born near the southern town of Cavaillon in 1946 - Father Gerry,
as he was affectionately called, began spending more time in Haiti, where he
set up a Veye Yo branch and began collaborating closely with another Catholic
priest, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
In September 1986, the two priests organized a week-long “Youth Congress”
in the southern city of Les Cayes, where some 2,000 young people from all over
Haiti gathered to hear speeches by Aristide, Jean-Juste and a host of other
liberation theologians and to meet in workshops to hammer out a post-Duvalier
agenda. This was the seminal meeting of what would later be called the Lavalas
(Flood) movement and produced the watchwords, blueprints and militants that
would catapult Aristide to the Presidency four years later.
The analysis and discussions at the “Youth Congress” were sharply
anti-imperialist, and often anti-capitalist. The gathering had as its principal
slogan “Ayiti pa pou vann, ni an gwo ni an detay” (Haiti is not for sale,
either wholesale or retail). At the time, the neo-Duvalierist military junta,
the National Government Council (CNG), was enforcing
Washington’s neo-liberal agenda of closing or selling state-owned enterprises
(like the national ricin oil plant ENAOL) and flooding Haiti with cheap
“Miami Rice,” which would decimate once-robust Haitian rice production over
the next two decades.
The Youth Congress ended with a giant march to the city’s outskirts where the
demonstrators dramatically tore down a large monument erected to commemorate
the Marchaterre massacre, in which U.S. Marines gunned down 22 protesting
Haitian peasants on Dec. 6, 1929, during the First U.S. Occupation of Haiti
(1915-1934). All during the march, Jean-Juste ran up and down the edges of the
crowd with a bullhorn, as he often did in Miami, urging protesters on.
Jean-Juste continued to travel back and forth to Miami, where he led the
community in demonstrations against various neo-Duvalierist governments. In one
memorable 1989 action, Jean-Juste organized a team of Veye Yo members to
ambush, with jeers and signs, the delegation of then President Prosper Avril, a
former Duvalierist general, in the Miami International Airport. One of the
women demonstrators even yanked Avril’s tie. A picture of the startled
general-president appeared on the cover of that week’s edition of
Haiti Progres, a weekly to which Jean-Juste sent weekly pictures and dispatches
about Miami events.
Jean-Juste resigned as HRC’s director in 1991 to work in Haiti under the new
Aristide administration, but soon found himself in hiding for three years in
Carrefour-Feuilles’ St. Gérard Church for most of the 1991-1994 coup
d’état against Aristide. A strict pacifist who held up slain Salvadorean
Archbishop Oscar Romero as a model, Jean-Juste was a strong proponent of
“active non-violence” and applauded actions like the 1992 drop from a small
plane of thousands of pro-Aristide flyers over Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.
After Aristide’s return in 1994, Jean-Juste became the priest at St.
Claire’s Church in the shantytown of Ti Plas Kazo, a bleak warren of tin and
cinderblock shacks in the capital’s Delmas district. There he preached and in
2000 set up a program to feed some 1,000 local children daily.
He rose again to national prominence following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against
Aristide. This time he did not go into hiding but instead challenged the
democratic pretensions of Washington-installed de facto Prime Minister Gérard
Latortue, attending public meetings as a representative of Aristide’s Lavalas
In response, the de facto government arrested Jean-Juste three times beginning
October 13, 2004, on a rotating menu of charges: disturbing the peace, weapons
possession, criminal association, treason, and, most preposterously, the July
2005 murder of journalist Jacques Roches.
On July 21, 2005, the day of his final arrest, Jean-Juste was helping to
officiate a funeral at St. Pierre’s Church in Pétionville for Roches, who
was a distant cousin from Cavaillon. He had been warned by many, including his
boss, Bishop Serge Miot, not to attend the mass, but he refused to be
”The church hierarchy knew that the de facto officials were about to kill
me,” Jean-Juste said in a June 2006 interview in Miami with Crowing Rooster
Arts. “The plot came from the de facto government,” but had the cooperation
of leaders of the coup’s political front, the Group of 184, and the
bourgeoisie’s radio stations, he said.
”They stationed a death squad outside the church,” Jean-Juste explained.
“This was later to become the coup’s terror force, Lanme Timachet [the
Little Machete Army]. They were trained to get me. Some of them didn’t even
know me, because at first they went to another priest with a beard. To start
the attack, [de facto Culture Minister] Magalie Comeau Denis and another woman
began screaming and accusing me of killing Jacques. Then two leaders from the
Group of 184 pointed me out to the death squad and they rushed in my direction.
They circled me.”
The thugs attacked Jean-Juste as he backed away from them up a staircase toward
the rectory. A North American lawyer, Bill Quigley, and a young Haitian woman
threw themselves between the attackers and the priest. One of the attackers
tried to stab Jean-Juste with a spike, but wounded the woman instead. Another
assailant had a gun but apparently became too afraid to use it. The U.N.
occupation troops, MINUSTAH belatedly intervened, turning Jean-Juste over to
Haitian police, who promptly arrested him because he was accused of Roche’s
killing by “public clamor.”
”I learned later that it was a 3 million gourdes plot [$77,000 US],”
Jean-Juste said. “The thugs got one million up front, but the balance of two
million was to come only after delivering my body.”
In all, Jean-Juste spent some seven months in jail as what Amnesty
International called “a prisoner of conscience.” Under pressure from an
international human rights campaign, the de facto authorities “provisionally
released” Jean-Juste in January 2006 for health reasons after a surreptitious
jailhouse examination and blood-drawing by Dr. Paul Farmer
revealed the priest was suffering from advanced leukemia. He was flown to Miami
and treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The leukemia briefly went into
While he was in jail, some Lavalas Family members drafted Jean-Juste to be the
party’s presidential candidate in Feb. 7, 2006 elections, despite an official
party boycott of the de facto-run polling. However, the de facto electoral
council disqualified him.
Once safely back in Miami, Jean-Juste endorsed the candidacy of former
President René Préval, who went on to win the election.
Jean-Juste’s defining moment came in Haiti in November 2007, when he appeared
before an appeals court which decided not to dismiss the charges against him.
When a judge questioned the weapons charge, he pulled something from his pocket
and uttered, to the boisterous applause of the courthouse, what has become one
of his most famous lines: “My rosary is my only weapon.”
Despite this deeply religious spirit, the Catholic hierarchy prohibited
Jean-Juste from carrying out his priestly duties following his 2005 arrest.
This sanction deeply hurt Jean-Juste and created psychological stress that
contributed to the relapse of his disease in 2009.
Since Jean-Juste’s death, radios, newspapers and the Internet have been
filled with glowing, heart-felt tributes to the priest.
”Honor to you, Father Jean-Juste! Respect for you, Gerry, our brother!”
wrote Aristide in a long Kreyol poem from exile in Pretoria, South Africa on
May 28. “You will always remain living in the spirit of those who love you.
That is how you have triumphed over death! The more we take the stars of
compliments to give you a crown of recognition, the more we will always
Bell Angelot, a Lavalas leader from Cap Haitien also wrote a long lyrical
tribute. “A powerful spirit has left this earth, and our mourning darkens the
whole city,” he wrote. “A griot left for eternity and the whole tribe is in
tears. But though the prophet is gone, his light remains.”
”Pere Jean-Juste was a Jesus-like revolutionary,” wrote Bill Quigley. “In
jail and out, he preached liberation of the poor, release of prisoners, human
rights for all, and a fair distribution of wealth.”
Politically, Jean-Juste’s doctrine, if it can be called that, had two
First, he was an assembler, and as such, non-sectarian. The bi-weekly meetings
at Veye Yo - on Tuesdays and Fridays - are often visited by people of different
political inclinations, sometimes radically different, from Veye Yo. But
visitors who want to speak are always granted a microphone. However, they may
be confronted afterwards by a Veye Yo leader or audience member. The result is
often a cacophonous, and sometimes anarchic, display of ideological struggle at
its most democratic.
For example, last August, a local Haitian politician came to Veye Yo, an
obligatory stop on any Miami campaign trail. After the would-be candidate
presented himself and asked for support, Jean-Juste took a microphone and
lambasted him for various positions he had taken in recent years. The animated
confrontation was followed with rapt attention, and some glee, by the audience.
Secondly, Jean-Juste was truly a man of the people. Aristide became elevated to
such symbolic, even mythic, stature that he could only be seen by the masses
from afar, usually behind a wall of body-guards, Father Gerry, however, was
readily available to anybody and everybody. He freely gave out his phone
numbers and often sat in the midst of the Veye Yo crowd during meetings. In
demonstrations, he marched and chanted with the people. He was entirely without
any pretensions of grandeur.
This humility and accessibility endeared him to the Haitian masses in both
Miami and Ti Plas Kazo, the two principal bases of his support.
Tens of thousands are likely to turn out from around the U.S. and Haiti at the
Miami exposition, which will happen on Friday, June 5th on NE 54th Street in
Miami’s Little Haiti in front of Veye Yo’s headquarters, and at the funeral
on Saturday, June 6th at Notre Dame on NE 62nd Street.
It is not yet clear where Jean-Juste will be buried. The family is reportedly
split on burying him in Miami or in Haiti.
”It is well-known to everyone that Gerry’s wish was to be buried in
Haiti,” Lavarice Gaudin, Jean-Juste’s right-hand man in Veye Yo, told Haiti
Liberté. “That is where is heart was, and that is where his body should
Most Haitians are shocked at the thought that Jean-Juste could be buried
anywhere other than Haiti. “He no longer belongs to his family,” said Guy
Ferdinand, a Lavalas Family leader and former Haitian consul in New York. “He
belongs to the Haitian people, and they want him in Haiti, as he would want to
All of us at Haiti Liberté mourn the passing of our dear friend and comrade of
many years, Father Gerry Jean-Juste. We will miss his hearty laugh, his
regular, encouraging phone calls, and above all, his generous, indomitable,
We’ll give Father Jean-Juste the final word in this short review of his life.
He held a mass meeting at Haiti Liberté during his last visit to New York in
October 2007 (see Haiti Liberté, Vol. 1, No. 16, 11/7/2007). In the meeting of
over three hours, he expressed his love of Haiti and his conviction to continue
the struggle for its liberation.
”In political matters, for us Haitians, it’s a question of life and
death,” he told the crowd. “The question of death is not what’s
important. It’s the ideas of Martin Luther King which are always primary in
my mind. If I don’t help, what will happen to our compatriots?”
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Published on Sunday, May 31, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Revolutionary Haitian Priest, Gerard Jean-Juste, Presente!
by Bill Quigley
Though Haitian priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste died May 27, 2009, at age 62, in
Miami from a stroke and breathing problems, he remains present to millions.
Justice-loving people world-wide mourn his death and celebrate his life. Pere
Jean-Juste worked uncompromisingly for justice for Haitians and the poor, both
in Haiti and in the U.S.
Pere Jean-Juste was a Jesus-like revolutionary. In jail and out, he preached
liberation of the poor, release of prisoners, human rights for all, and a fair
distribution of wealth. A big muscular man with a booming voice and a frequent
deep laugh, he wore a brightly colored plastic rosary around his neck and
carried another in his pocket. Jailed for nearly a year in Haiti by the U.S.
supported coup government which was trying to silence him, Amnesty
International called him a Prisoner of Conscience.
Jean-Juste was a scourge to the unelected coup governments of Haiti, who served
at the pleasure, and usually the direction, of the U.S. government. He
constantly challenged both the powers of Haiti and the U.S. to stop killing and
starving and imprisoning the poor. In the U.S. he fought against government
actions which deported black Haitians while welcoming Cubans and Nicaraguans
and others. In Haiti he called for democracy and respect and human rights for
Pere Jean-Juste was sometimes called the most dangerous man in Haiti. That was
because he was not afraid to die. His computer screen saver was a big blue
picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. "Every day I am ready to meet her." He
once told me, when death threats came again. "I will not stop working for
justice because of their threats. I am looking forward to heaven."
Jean-Juste was a literally a holy terror to the unelected powers of Haiti and
the elected but unaccountable powers of the U.S. Every single day, in jail or
out, he said Mass, read the psalms and jubilantly prayed the rosary. In Port au
Prince he slept on the floor of his church, St. Claire, which provided meals to
thousands of starving children and adults every week. In prison, he organized
local nuns to bring him hundreds of plastic rosaries which he gave to fellow
prisoners and then lead them in daily prayer.
When Pere Jean-Juste began to speak, to preach really, about justice for the
poor and the wrongfully imprisoned, restless crowds drew silent. Listening to
him preach was like feeling the air change before a thunderstorm sweeps in. He
slowly raised his arms. He spread his powerful hands to punctuate his
intensifying words. Minutes passed as the Bible and the Declaration of Human
Rights and today's news were interspersed. Justice for the poor. Freedom for
those in prison. Comfort for those who mourn. The thunder was rolling now.
Crowds were cheering now. Human rights for everyone. Justice for Haiti. Justice
for Haiti. Justice for Haiti.
To the rich, Jean-Juste preached that the man with two coats should give one to
the woman with none. But, unlike most preachers, he did not stop there. Because
there were many people with no coats, Pere Jean-Juste said, no one could justly
claim ownership of a second coat. In fact, those who held onto second coats
were actually thieves who stole from those who had no coats. In Haiti and the
U.S., where there is such a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, there
was much stealing by the rich from the poor. This was revolutionary preaching.
During the day, people streamed to his church to ask for help. Mothers walked
miles from Cite de Soleil to his parish to beg him to help them bury their
children. Widows sought help. Families with sons in prison asked for a private
word. Small packets of money and food were quietly given away. Visitors from
rural Haiti, people seeking jobs, many looking for food, police officers who
warned of new threats, political organizers with ideas how to challenge the
unelected government, reporters and people seeking special prayers - all came
all the time.
Every single night when he was home at his church in Port au Prince Pere
Jean-Juste led a half hour public rosary for anyone who showed up. Most of the
crowd was children and older women who came in part because the church was the
only place in the neighborhood which had electricity. He walked the length of
the church booming out the first part of the Hail Mary while children held his
hand or trailed him calling out their part of the rosary. The children and the
women came night after night to pray in Kreyol with Mon Pere.
Pere Jean-Juste lived the preferential option for the poor of liberation
theology. Because he was always in trouble with the management of the church,
who he also freely criticized, he was usually not allowed regular church parish
work. In Florida, he lay down in his clerical blacks on the road in front of
busses stopping them from taking Haitians to be deported from the U.S. For
years he lived on the run in Haiti, moving from house to house. When he was
arrested on trumped-up charges, he refused to allow people with money to bribe
his way out of jail, he would stay with the poor and share their treatment.
He dedicated his entire adult life to the revolutionary proposition that every
single person is entitled to a life of human dignity. No matter the color of
skin. No matter what country they were from. No matter how poor or rich. No
matter woman or man.
His last time in court in Haiti, when the judge questioned him about a bogus
weapons charge against him, Pere Jean-Juste dug into his pocket, pulled out his
plastic prayer beads, thrust them high in the air and bellowed, to the delight
of the hundreds in attendance, "My rosary is my only weapon!" The crowd roared
and all charges were dropped.
Gerard Jean-Juste lived with and fought for and with widows and orphans and
those in jail and those being deported and the hungry and the mourning and the
sick and the persecuted. Our world is better for his time among us.
Mon Pere, our brother, your spirit, like those of all who struggle for justice
for others, lives on. Presente!
By Bill Quigley. Bill represented Pere Jean-Juste many times in Haiti along
with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port au Prince and the Institute
for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is on leave from Loyola University
College of Law in New Orleans serving as Legal Director of the Center for
Constitutional Rights. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ROSARY AND FATHER GERRY
As Father Gerry languished in a Haitian prison several years ago with leukemia, conveniently denied by a local Haitian doctor, the Catholic hierarchy in Haiti stripped Father of his duties as a priest.
Father returned to Haiti in 2007 to defend himself against still pending charges. In court, he replied that "My rosary is my only weapon." All charges were dropped.
My comments in 2021--
Knowing Fr. Jean Juste was very significant for Maria and me. We knew that we were in the presence of an honest and sincere human being.
No job was too small for him. No person was too small for him.
He was a courageous man. We saw that up close and personal.
Father died in 2009. Our friend, Bill Quigley, wrote the following about Father Gerry.
"Pere Jean-Juste was sometimes called the most dangerous man in Haiti. That was because he was not afraid to die. His computer screen saver was a big blue picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. "Every day I am ready to meet her." He once told me, when death threats came again. "I will not stop working for justice because of their threats. I am looking forward to heaven."